Fox Business host John Stossel gets it right on parks privatization in his latest Townhall.com article, "Making Parks Decent Again."
In Stossel's piece the specific park in question is Boston Common, which is America's oldest park. He highlights the example of Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, New York. Bryant Park was privatized by a conservancy through the nonprofit public-private partnership (PPP) model. Essentially, a nonprofit organization was established to support and manage the park, and since 1996 it has not required a single dollar from New York City taxpayers. Stossel also rightly references Central Park as another PPP success story, which was privatized through a conservancy-based nonprofit PPP.
It is important to note that this is not the only form of park PPP. Parks officials have relied on outsourcing to have specific tasks, such as trail maintenance, handled more cost-effectively by private companies. Parks have also successfully applied the whole-park concession model where a for-profit concessionaire assumes long-term management of a park, while public oversight is retained.
PPPs in parks represent a win-win-win. Parks advocates are ensured that parks facilities are no longer victim to inconsistent government revenue and political whims; taxpayers rest easy knowing that parks will be sustainably funded without tax gimmicks (like this one in California); and policymakers retain oversight over parks while harnessing the capital and expertise of the private sector.
Reason Foundation has been leading the national conversation on privatization and PPPs in parks. Earlier this year I wrote about parks privatization in New York in response to an interview my colleague Len Gilroy had with Fox 5 New York. Gilroy also wrote about parks privatization in Virginia here and here.
Be sure to also check out this recent video from Reason.tv on parks concession arrangements with private operators in Arizona, California, and elsewhere. (The video runs about seven and a half minutes long.)
Stossel finishes with a resounding message worth repeating:
The creative minds of the private sector invent solutions that never occur to government bureaucrats. If government would just get out of the way, entrepreneurship and innovation, stimulated by the profit motive, will make our lives better.
Harris Kenny is a research assistant at Reason Foundation